Impact of aviation noise

Millions of people in Europe are exposed to aircraft noise at residential communities in the vicinity of airports, and longterm exposure to these noise levels affects the health of individuals.

In 2018, the World Health Organization Europe summarised the scientific evidence in a guidance document [16] on the maximum acceptable outdoor noise levels to avoid health effects. The main World Health Organization Europe findings that link aviation noise and health effects are presented in Table 7.1. Additional health effects were reported, but the relationship with aircraft noise was considered inconclusive.

Aircraft noise annoyance

Annoyance is one of the most prevalent effects of noise [82], [83]. A high level of annoyance is considered to be a good indicator that there are health impacts resulting from environmental noise in a community.

The predicted community annoyance from aircraft noise is generally assessed through an ‘exposure-response’ relationship showing the expected percentage of people highly annoyed due to a range of aircraft noise exposure levels [84]. In Europe, noise exposure is assessed with the Lden noise indicator. Figure 7.1 illustrates the exposure-response relationships from the World Health Organization Europe guidelines for noise from various transportation modes.

As shown in Figure 7.1, aircraft noise is considered more annoying at the same noise exposure level than road or railway noise [85]. The tonality of the source noise, the frequency content or a negative attitude towards aircraft could be potential causes for this difference in reactions. Furthermore, while most buildings are not surrounded by roads or railways on all sides, aircraft noise arrives from above and may be harder to avoid.

It should be kept in mind that the above exposure-response curve for aircraft noise represents the average response over a range of studies conducted since the early 2000s. As circumstances and communities around airports can differ, local and scientifically robust exposure-response relationships may be preferred, if available, when assessing annoyance from aircraft noise around specific airports [86].

Noise-Related Annoyance, Cognition, and Health (NORAH) study
The NORAH study examined a range of health effects in the area around Frankfurt airport, both before and after a fourth runway was built [87], [88]. After the opening of the new runway, the reported annoyance initially increased but dropped again in the subsequent two years. However, the annoyance levels remained higher than the levels seen prior to the runway opening.

The study also captured the effects of a night flight ban. The introduction of a six-hour night flight ban from 23:00 to 05:00 had a positive overall effect on sleep. The ban reduced the number of awakenings in people that went to bed between 22:00-22:30 and got up between 06:00-06:30, although participants felt increasingly tired and sleepy in the mornings. Thus the introduction of the curfew on scheduled flights between 23:00 and 05:00 had not led to people making a more positive subjective evaluation of their sleep [89]. Furthermore, it was observed that people who had a critical attitude towards aircraft traffic were found to sleep less well than those supporting it.